Yes, I live! It's been a long time since I've visited here. But I've been writing all along, and I've been considering publishing again. So the reason for this post is to ask a question of you, my dear watchers and former readers.
If I were to release a non-fanfiction story on this site's sister site, fictionpress, would anyone be interested in reading it? The one I'm considering releasing is a compilation of some of my most popular works and some previously unreleased stories converted from fanfiction to a bit more original background and storyline. Some of the characters would bear similarities to those used in my previous works, as would some of the storylines. This WOULD NOT be a fanfiction, but it would be reminiscent of some anime stories and characters, especially those I have published for Naruto in the past.
So…any takers? I would like to know if there is any interest before I release it. This is a completed four-part series that I wrote mostly for myself. But if anyone out there would still like to read some of my work, I would be willing to publish again. To help you all out (and make certain this complies with site guidelines...I am not a rulebreaker!), I've included a brief preview.
Thank you for listening, and I appreciate any opinions that may be offered.
With All Due Respect,
The man beside her was stern and stoic, and after her first glance at his hardened expression, she kept her eyes forward. She knew him very well, but this day was nothing like the lazy days inside his clan's compound, and she could not stand the sight of his eyes when they were so distant. The carriage rocked beneath them and occasionally, the jolt was enough to make her bump into him. She wished he wouldn't have sat so close, but perhaps he thought he needed to keep an eye on her. After all, she had made it very clear that this trip was taking place against her will.
"I trust you are aware of your duties," he said quite suddenly, and she realized that he would only speak to her if they were very close to their destination. She turned to him and he was looking back at her, the weight of worry pushing its way to the surface of his expression.
"We are counting on you, child."
His voice had softened to the gentle tone he used when no one else was around to listen, when he addressed her as a daughter. She knew the importance of this journey, that everything he had worked for, his entire people, depended on her now. Once he walked away, there was nothing more he could do, and the helplessness must have been nearly overwhelming.
"Yes, my lord," she answered softly, and he reached over to rest his hand atop hers where they lay folded in her lap.
"He will treat you well. You will be happy."
It sounded like a reassurance for himself and an order for her. As if he could force her to be happy with a stranger.
The carriage stopped and she gathered the skirts of her kimono, preparing to step outside. Her companion got out first and held out one hand to help her down. There were gas lamps lit outside the gates of the Kiyomi complex, but the small flames barely broke the dense darkness. The complex was close to a mile outside the city and the lights did not reach here. The cover of night was necessary so that neither clan leader would be missed by his people during the exchange.
A chamber had been set aside for her preparation, and two servant girls were waiting. What was perhaps the most beautiful kimono she had ever seen was carefully laid out. That's for me, she realized suddenly, and her steps faltered in the doorway.
His hand was warm and firm on her shoulder as he walked by. "I must speak with Lord Kiyomi. Go on, I will see you to the ceremony when I return."
It was aftermmidnight and she was tired, so she did not protest as the servants began tugging at her hair and applying traditional makeup. The process was long and painful, and she let her mind go blank, her eyes half-lidded and staring at the wall before her. When it was finally time to don the kimono, she stood and held her arms to her sides, used to being dressed by now.
Finished with their task, the servant girls were obviously relieved, and bowed to her before they quickly fled the room. No doubt they were ready to be finished with an unusually long day and fall into bed. A full-length mirror was standing against one of the walls, obviously brought in especially for her, and she turned to look.
A strangely ethereal creature stood in her reflection, with her long hair elaborately twisted and pinned atop her head and that stunning white kimono. Its obi and trim were crimson, a small pattern of matching flowers dancing across the silk. The skirts brushed the floor and became a short train in the back, a kimono made especially for her. Black eyeliner had been carefully applied, her lips painted red. Quite suddenly, it occurred to her that this was not some stranger, but her, decorated so carefully and prepared for her husband to be.
That was when it struck her that there was no turning back.
A soft knock came at the door and it opened slowly when she did not respond. He smiled one of his rare smiles to see her, and the lines in his face looked somehow deeper, strained by the stress of their current situation. Akahana Makoto was a tired man, she knew, and all his life, his entire clan and the people who depended on him, was tied up in her now. His trust was a heavy burden.
"Remember your lessons," he counseled, his hands tucked into his sleeves, and she nodded. "Mind your manners and do not argue. I know you have a tendency toward stubbornness but you must silence it. Our envoy will arrive in a month's time to check on you, so he has every reason to seek your contentment."
"Yes, my lord."
"I am not your lord anymore."
He walked with her to one of the smaller rooms, where two other men were already waiting. One would perform the ceremony; the other would become her husband.
She had been told that his name was Kiyomi Hansuke, but aside from the fact that he was the leader of the prestigious Kiyomi clan, she knew nothing of him. The moment they stepped through the doorway, she dropped her eyes so that she would not have to see him. The very idea was terrifying to her, and as they drew closer, she kept her gaze straight forward and did not dare look up at his face. Once they were facing each other, that meant that she was staring at his chest, and she assessed what she could see. His robes were crimson and white like hers, beautifully detailed with hand-stitched embroidery. The ends of dark hair fell just past his shoulders, and his skin was several shades darker than hers. She wondered what his eyes were like, but she still couldn't make herself look.
Throughout the entirety of the brief ceremony, she just stared, blank, at that beautiful haori he wore. She was waiting for the part when she was supposed to rest her hands on his upturned palms, the last part of the ceremony. Her mind seemed to blur and she could not decipher the officiator's words, but when Hansuke raised his hands, she moved slowly and carefully to return the gesture despite the rapid pounding of her heart in her chest. His skin was warm and calloused. Now she could hear the words, and she heard "man and wife."
Hansuke lowered his hands.
So...what do you think? Would you like to read more? I will be interested to find out.